The Telegraph’s Middle East correspondent James Rothwell inadvertently revealed the truth about what represents “provocations” at the Temple Mount.
The article (“Fears of ‘third intifada’ as extreme-Right Israeli minister ignites tensions over Jerusalem holy sites“, Jan. 9th) attempts to draw an analogy between the Temple Mount visit by Ariel Sharon in 2000 and last week’s visit to the Jewish holy site by Itamar Ben-Gvir.
First, Rothwell acknowledges that “Jews and non-Muslims can visit [the Temple Mount] as long as they do not pray there”, but then adds that “Palestinians say that visits from Israeli politicians are an attempt to upend that delicate status quo”.
But, if politicians visiting the site do NOT, by his own account, violate the status quo, then why do Palestinians insist that such visits, nonetheless, represents “an attempt to upend the delicate status quo”?
Then, citing Palestinian residents he spoke to in Jerusalem about the minister’s visit, Rothwell writes:
Further down the street, another Old City merchant said Mr Ben-Gvir’s visit triggered flashbacks of September 28 2000, the day when Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon paid his own fateful journey to the al-Aqsa mosque compound. His presence was deemed so provocative that it prompted a spree of protests and riots which evolved into the Second Intifada…
As we’ve noted in other posts, Sharon’s visit was merely a cynical pretext used by Palestinian terrorists and PA leaders opposed to a two-state solution to launch what turned out to be a five-year campaign of savage terror attacks primarily targeting innocent Israeli civilians – including children.
But, leaving that aside, note that neither Sharon in 2000, nor Ben-Gvir last week, prayed at the site or did anything in violation of the status quo agreement. So, why was the presence of either Israeli deemed “provocative” by Palestinians?
Rothwell doesn’t say.
Later in the article, the journalist cites further putative “provocations”:
Scenes of large groups of Jewish tourists visiting the site can also be seen by Palestinians as a provocation, even if the visitors do not pray there.
Again, there’s no indication that Rothwell understand the significance of what he wrote. He, in effect, demonstrated that nearly any peaceful Jewish visit to Judaism’s holiest site – by politicians or ordinary Israelis – can be seen as a provocation to Palestinians.
Not that any of this should be seen as news, as there have been frequent instances of Muslim worshipers rioting and engaging in violence and intimidation at the Temple Mount merely because of Jews visiting the holy site. During one such incident in 2014, Muslim worshipers heckled and threw shoes at Jewish children who were visiting with their parents.
Once, during an interview with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin by David Frost, Begin, after being asked by the late journalist if the presence of Jews in the disputed territories, including Jerusalem, was a “provocation”, mentioned that during his youth in Poland, he asked a group of Poles why they felt a need to beat up Jews, and they responded that the very presence of Jews was a “provocation.”
It’s telling that journalists who don’t hesitate to call out Israeli extremists such as Ben-Gvir won’t characterise Palestinians who feel threatened or ‘provoked’ by the very presence of Jews at shared holy sites as the bigots and enemies of co-existence they are.